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The U'mista Collections


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Bakwas Mask of Charlie Walkus

Bakwas Mask of Charlie Walkus
Bakwas "Wild-Man of the Woods"

Bak̕was or "Wild-Man of the Woods"

The Bak̕was is a supernatural creature who takes away drowned people. His body is cold as ice and possesses great physical strength and can leap great distances. He has the power to hypnotize if one were to look into his eyes. Whoever accepts and eats his offerings of food which are usually rotten wood, maggots, toads, snakes and lizards; weary or lost travelers imagining it as normal food, will become a Bak̕was and never return to their people. These unfortunate souls are taken away to his house that appears at night and disappears during the day. Bak̕was is believed to be the "Chief of the Ghosts". He is also known as the "Hunter of the Night". In many encounters with this shy little woodman, he is often sighted on moonlit nights on isolated beaches digging for his favorite food, dzoli or cockles. He is said to be very shy and skeletal in form with hair covering his body. The Bak̕was is said to be a loner and is male.

Bak̕was can appear in both the T̕seka and Dłuwalaxa (also called Peace Dances). The first mentioned is higher in rank. The dancer appears wearing a mask representing this supernatural being and a hair-covered costume along with hemlock rings, wrist and ankle bands acknowledging the forest as the dwelling place of the Bak̕was. There is also another creature associated with the Bak̕was called Ax’alk̕was, which is similar and is said to be a person who is transforming into, but not completely a Bak̕was. Ax’alk̕was can still stand up erect and use tools to hunt, whereas Bak̕was cannot. Ax’alk̕was belong to the T̕seka and is only danced in these ceremonies, whereas Bak̕was can be danced in the Peace Dances as well. The Bak̕was dancer in the Dłuwalaxa will enter through the front door signifying he came from the beach. Bak̕was often covers his face shying away from the fire and especially the people. The dancer moves slowly and his body is shivering and trembling with supernatural power. The dancer will often dig on the floor as if searching for cockles, imitating the "Hunter of the Night".

Knowledge from Chief Tom Willie

The Bak̕was masks in the collection are listed as belonging to: K̕wamxudi UCC-80.01.10

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